Growing up on a farm near Imperial, Sask., Cruise graduated high school and earned a volleyball scholarship that took her to Montana Tech, where she was trained as an engineer. But Cruise said her real goal was always to become a lawyer. After working for engineering firms in Salt Lake City, Utah, for a few years, Cruise decided it was time to come back to Saskatchewan.
“When I applied, I only applied to USask. I really missed my home province and I wanted to come and be closer to my family. And I know USask is a really great school,” said Cruise, adding that both of her parents earned degrees at the institution.
And at USask’s College of Law she thrived, and graduates this spring as a member of USask’s truly unique Class of 2020.
In her second year of law school, she became involved with the Dean’s Forum on Access to Justice and Dispute Resolution. With fellow students Melissa Craig and Jianna Rieder, Cruise examined how Saskatchewan could meet the justice needs of the public and increase legal empowerment through technology. The project also entailed working with a room full of Saskatchewan justice sector stakeholders and using design thinking to have them consider the access to justice crisis from a user perspective.
“I think that was a fairly transformative day for a lot of the practitioners and it was great because it brought technology into the legal space, not just as a Band-Aid solution to a problem. We really took on the mentality that technology is a mindset.”
Cruise, together with Kaitlin Ward, Courtenay Catlin and Leah Howie (coach), was also part of a team that won the national Willms & Shier Environmental Moot in 2019—a first for the College of Law.
“It was really amazing to win a national championship, but beyond that it was really amazing to get to work with Leah Howie, who I think is a fantastic role model. She also graduated with a degree in engineering before entering law school,” said Cruise.
During her last year as a law student, Cruise completed a semester in Finland where she carried out research at the Helsinki Legal Tech Lab, an interdisciplinary hub which examines and experiments on legal technology and digitization of legal practices.
In her final term, Cruise was enrolled in the clinical course at Community Legal Assistance Services For Saskatoon Inner City (CLASSIC). She said working every day with individuals who are underserviced by programs that are designed to help them and who are sometimes taken advantage of by landlords and other systems was really eye opening for her.
“There’s a difference in understanding Access to Justice from an abstract level and actually seeing the practicalities of how the Access to Justice crisis looks when you are working with individuals who are struggling to navigate it,” explained Cruise.
Cruise spent her last weeks as a USask law student organizing a toy drive for children affected by COVID-19. As of April 22, toys, crafts and books had been delivered to more than 500 children around Saskatoon and as far north as Birch Narrows.
“I think the University of Saskatchewan, and the College of Law specifically, can be really proud that it is not graduating students who are just sad that we can’t throw our end-of-year party. That is of course disappointing, but it’s amazing to see there are so many students who aren’t choosing to focus on that, and are instead choosing to focus on how we can help,” said Cruise.
While it may not have been the ending to law school Cruise was expecting, she is proud of the way she and her classmates have been able to focus on the positives.
“Even though what we are going through is real and we’re allowed to have feelings about it, in the grander scheme of things, it’s nothing compared to what a lot of our fellow Canadians, and our fellow global citizens are going through during this time. So, it’s really heartening.”
Cruise feels fortunate to have a plan set out for the next three years of her life. In June, she starts clerking at the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in Regina. In 2021, she will clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada for the Honourable Justice Malcolm Rowe, and will then join the Borden Ladner Gervais LLP law firm in Vancouver.
As she joins the impressive family of USask College of Law alumni, there’s no doubt Cruise’s highlight reel will continue for years to come.